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We’re developing a strategic thinking webinar for a client on cultivating and sustaining creativity among its salesforce. Since the webinar is with the organization’s sales leadership, the focus is on creative thinking skills they can and should be embracing to help their salespeople see opportunities in new ways.

Part of the creative thinking skills content will come via our Idea Magnets material. It’s focused on what successful creative leaders do to cultivate ideas both on their own and within their teams.

One specific comment during a talk with the client upfront focused on how to get salespeople thinking creatively bigger and differently on a daily basis. That discussion got me thinking about how the Brainzooming approach on extreme creativity and fostering creative thinking skills came to be.

team-creative-thinking-skills

Giving “One” for Team Creativity

Maybe more specifically, it got me thinking about how I had had to change my own approach to business to keep up when I started working for an incredibly creative, dynamic strategic mentor, Greg Reid, at YRC Worldwide.

Greg came to our business-to-business transportation and logistics company with a completely different sensibility than anyone else there. He operated faster; he operated slower. He thought bigger, and he thought about minute details no one would ever notice. He would challenge people beyond the point where anyone on his team was left standing behind him for support. He’d make us think through everything we were going to do then throw it out and improvise because something changed, and he saw tremendous potential success in doing something completely unexpected. He was often not on time, but he was never late.

Above all, for those that were up to the pace and eager to learn new creative thinking skills, it was an incredible experience to work with him.

10 Ideas for Stimulating Extreme Team Creativity

When thinking about how a leader cultivates team creativity, I’ll share this list of healthy ways to stretch a team to the point where it CAN’T do things the same old way and still be successful.

Want to stretch your team to grow its creative thinking skills?

Try:

  • Selecting multiple goals.
  • Taking on more than it seems you can finish.
  • Dramatically accelerating timelines.
  • Creating new rules.
  • Holding incredibly high, unwavering performance standards.
  • Taking so much time to think about things that it seems you’ll never start and get finished.
  • Going higher in the organization whenever a client or partner tells you, “No.”
  • Never letting a gatekeeper stop you.
  • When negotiating, always asking for more.
  • Expecting to do consistently do something that is “scary” different.

Pick a few of these items (or even all of them) off the list and start running your team with these expectations. You’ll find out who the successful creative thinkers are RIGHT AWAY! – Mike Brown

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Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help  generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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The folks at Armada Corporate Intelligence shared, via their “Inside the Executive Suite” feature, a number of ideas to improve the effectiveness of rolling out your strategic planning document for the upcoming year. They were gracious enough to let us feature the six approaches since there’s still time to improve the effectiveness of how you introduce your strategic plan. We list each of their suggestions followed by our own thoughts in italics.

6 Ways to Make an Impact with this Year’s Strategic Planning Document

New ideas and strategic planning initiatives are ready to roll out, but strategies often aren’t developed with a full understanding of the audiences most affected by them. This can create a mismatch between executives sharing new strategic planning documents and those on the receiving end that are expected to implement them.

New-Year-Strategic-Planning

While some approaches for smooth strategy roll-outs could be too late to implement, there are multiple possibilities to improve the experience and impact.

  1. Create messaging focused on audience benefits and motivations

While the inclination is often to communicate a plan based on the external factors that justify the direction, it’s far better to communicate a plan in language that motivates the relevant audiences to understand how successful plan implementation helps them be successful in helping the organization be successful.

  1. Make sure the plan language SOUNDS like the audience

If you’re strategic plan sounds like freshly-minted MBA consultants put it together, STOP! Even if you don’t have time to revise all the language throughout the plan, at least make sure the shortened version you share with your organization SOUNDS like they talk. Make the language so simple that anyone in the organization knows what the plan means for them individually and what they need to do to make it successful.

  1. Give potential influencers an early look

Who are the operations leaders, sales veterans, and others that all the rest of the organization will look to for cues on what to think about the strategic plan? Spend the time to identify the list of people matching these descriptions and then invest the time to reach out and give them an early look on what you plan to share with the rest of the organization. You want to make sure they’re bought in and saying ALL the right things about the strategic plan.

  1. Shorten what you’re communicating to a single page or infographic

Do whatever it takes to come up with a one-page version of the plan for each audience you need to embrace, own, and actively implement the plan. Make it easy for people to understand what they need to do!

  1. Identify opportunities for user customization in the strategy

Don’t be ridiculous . . . you haven’t covered EVERYTHING people need to do in your strategic plan. Be upfront and identify where employees have latitude to make good business decisions and customize how they approach and implement the organization’s strategic plan.

  1. Communicate the strategy in a compelling way this year

Don’t send out a plan and expect ANYONE will read your email with the plan attachment. Just as you try to cut through the clutter with your customer communication, think about all the boring, crappy internal communications that create clutter internally. Then do something completely different and exciting to share this year’s plan!

There Is Still Time

As the folks at Armada suggested, you can pick just one of these ideas and realize greater impact from this year’s plan. 

The big strategic thinking question is, “Which one will you pick?”

 

 

10 Keys to Engaging Stakeholders to Create Improved Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Leaders are looking for powerful ways to engage strong collaborators to shape shared visions. They need strategic thinkers who can develop strategy and turn it into results.

This new Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons for leaders to increase strategic collaboration, engagement, and create improved results.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage stakeholders in strategy AND implementation success

Download Your FREE Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-book

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Walking in on the Kansas City Chiefs – Oakland Raiders game broadcast Sunday on FOX, the announcers were discussing the Chiefs defensive scheme. They reported the team’s defensive coordinator, Bob Sutton, told them that when planning competitive strategy, “I want to stay out of ‘never’ and ‘always.’”

Competitive-Strategy-Chiefs

What fantastic competitive strategy advice to incorporate this time of year as you implement new strategies.

While most brands want a consistent, always the same brand experience for customers, you don’t want to fall into familiar patterns with competitive strategy. When it comes to competitive strategy, you definitely want to take advantage of the power of surprise whenever and wherever possible.

Who Sees Predictable Competitive Strategy Moves?

Here’s the big strategic thinking question: Who can best shed light on when your brand is defaulting to “never and always” in your competitive strategy?

Your marketing and brand managers MAY be able to point out places where THEY have gone to the same old, same old in their strategic planning and implementation. Chances are, however, they aren’t going to be quick to come to the table and point out where they aren’t doing everything they should to grow the brand.

Alternatively, look to these sources:

  • Your market research and data people – Do you have predictable patterns that show up in the data, whether it’s in market research data or other data sources that reflect market activity? Dive in to see what you can see happening over and over.
  • Savvy, trusted customers – Every brand has customers that are brand fans with a keen appreciation of the broad marketplace and what each competitor is doing. Reach out to these customers for your brand. Ask them what they have to say about your “never and always” patterns.

Competitive Strategy – 7 Ways to Avoid “Never and Always”

Once you’ve got as good a handle as possible on your predictable competitor strategy moves, then it’s time to introduce competitive surprises. They could include:

  1. Doing something that’s opposite of what you always do
  2. Doing something you’ve never done before
  3. Randomly varying a pattern you always follow
  4. Doing way more or way less of things you can’t stop doing, but can change the intensity
  5. Putting together two things you haven’t done together before
  6. Using channel partners in new and different ways
  7. Changing aspects of the marketing mix that are on autopilot for new product launches

Start there and see what else you can do to turn back from a competitive strategy that needlessly depends on “never and always.”  – Mike Brown

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Looking for Ways to Develop a Successful
Innovation Strategy to Grow Your Business?
Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate more strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise eBook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE eBook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!





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What innovative ideas are you looking to imagine and implement in the coming year?

Brainzooming-Greeting

Was a little orange box of innovative ideas under your tree?

Here’s a Christmas wish from your friends at The Brainzooming Group: We hope Santa left a little orange box under your tree that’s full of incredible innovative ideas, all of them leading to great success!

Just in case Santa didn’t deliver, remember The Brainzooming Group is available for your organization throughout the year to help envision innovative ideas. We will also collaborate with you to turn them into reality with smart strategies and solid implementation plans. Along the way, your team will learn actionable creative thinking skills and dynamic strategy exercises that will serve them and your organization for years to come.

And all it takes is a little orange Brainzooming box to get started!

In the meantime, Merry Christmas, enjoy the holidays, and let’s all celebrate a new year full of incredible possibilities!

Your Friends at The Brainzooming Group

 

 

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I have been having Facebook conversations with a friend for several weeks about God’s voice in providing strategic direction – whether personally or for a career. Amid those conversations and sharing a message I had received in prayer one morning that was for HER specifically, I happened upon an idea:

God reaches us through those that reach us.

The point is while we might be looking for flashes of lightning and thunder to accompany a divine message, God is going to try to reach us through the people around us that we interact with, share our challenges and hopes with, and listen to most earnestly. Because THOSE interactions can seem so common, however, it is easy to miss when a divine message appears wrapped in everyday conversation.

The other day, our Facebook conversation turned to a song that showed up a couple of times for her recently. One instance was related to a time of personal challenge where she has been seeking answers; the other was when she was acting on the divine message I had passed along to her. Within our conversation, these seemingly unconnected instances revealed a potentially profound relevance to one another. That part of the conversation led to scribbling out a few sentence on a notebook as I was hitting the road to go home for a pre-Christmas visit.

Prettied up and edited a bit, it is conveyed in the graphic here.

151216-God-Reaches-Us

This may surprise some of you, but as the years go by, I become increasingly devoted to trying to pray more and listen to divine messages offering strategic direction. Sometimes the messages are big; most times, however, they are simple, direct, nudges taking me in a different direction or confirming what I have been contemplating.

And if you are part of a Brainzooming workshop or presentation, you can be pretty assured I have prayed not only for your openness to new thinking, but that I can humbly serve you with any and all talents I to help you. If things are more challenging or difficult than expected during a workshop or presentation, you can bet I am praying for both of us during a break to mutually find the way to make progress.

As we enter the holiday season, I am going to try to blog less and focus more on looking ahead to the future of Brainzooming and what we need to do to grow and improve what we do for clients and readers. That will take prayer time to create more opportunities to listen and look for divine messages and strategic direction. It is also going to take some time away from the day-to-day stuff.

I want to take this opportunity then to say Happy Holidays to all of you, and thank you for reading what we have to share on a daily basis. Our motivation is to help you daily, and we will do everything we can to fulfill on the promise even better in 2016 than we did in 2015.

God bless!

Mike Brown

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ebook-cover-redoBoost Your Creativity with “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”

Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help  generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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Today’s Blogapalooza article is from Lindsay Santee, a marketing manager and student in Max Utsler’s Innovation in Management of Communications class at The University of Kansas. We’re doing work with the Kansas City Public Library, so I’m more attuned to library innovation strategy than might be typical. Lindsay’s story on the Human Library is an intriguing innovation in disseminating content that doesn’t sit on a library shelf. The applicability to organizations other than libraries comes from using the core value you deliver and asking, “How could we turn the value we deliver into a more compelling experience?” Another possibility is using a benefits exercise to understand what you do (i.e., a library shares stories of peoples’ lives) and its benefits before innovating on other ways to deliver the benefit.

Library Innovation Strategy – Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover by Lindsay Santee

Lindsay-SanteeWhen it comes to change, library innovation does not seem to have advanced much over time, at least judged by all the things that have stayed the same. From the Dewey Decimal System to the book checkout process and the musty smell of library aisles, even in the digital age, not much has changed about traditional libraries over the years.

However, imagine a different type of library where you check out humans – just as you check out books – and listen to these humans share their unique, personal stories. Imagine being able to interact with the stories as you listen to them. It is as if you are seeing and experiencing the world through these peoples’ eyes, from their own perspective.

The “Human Library” is a real library innovation strategy created in Denmark in 2000. Library guests can choose which volunteer they check out based on titles the human books assign themselves. Example titles include everything from “Olympic Athlete,” to “Fat Woman,” to “A Questioning Christian, to “Iraq War Veteran,” to “Homeless Man.” Visitors sit down with their books for approximately 30 minutes to listen to these “interactive books” share their personal stories and experiences.

Library-Innovation-Homeless

The Human Library project is meant to fight discrimination and foster diversity by giving people an opportunity to speak with someone who they may not have interacted with otherwise. This experiment allows people to establish human connections and cultural appreciation. The library even has “bestsellers”- the most popular volunteer storytellers who tell stories of tolerance and understanding.

In the world we live in today, we cannot begin to address global issues such as poverty, disease, and war until we learn to better understand and relate with one another. We must unite above and beyond the boundaries we allow cultural difference to build between us. Perhaps, if we consider each person on an individual basis, undamaged by unsupported perceptions, we will be more likely to learn about one another on a personal level. The Human Library is a big step in creating a world free of bigotry and hate, a world without stereotypes and prejudice.

Today the Human Library social experiment has expanded to 50 countries across the world. There is a US-based Human Library each September at Utah State University. I look forward to this social experiment appearing more broadly in the US. This library innovation truly adds a whole new meaning to the phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” – Lindsay Santee

 

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

 

ebook-cover-redoBoost Your Creativity with “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation”

Download our FREE “Taking the No Out of InNOvation eBook to help  generate extreme creativity and ideas! For organizational innovation success, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative growth strategies. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

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Checking our Brainzooming web analytics, “free strategic planning exercises” is a frequent search bringing people to the Brainzooming website. That is no surprise. We share all kinds of free strategic planning exercises, such as these, these, and these.

Those strategic planning exercises simply scratch the surface. In fact, there are only a few exercises we use that we DON’T share with you here – all for free.

If you are an executive looking for “free strategic planning exercises,” any place you find them SHOULD provide a corresponding warning label. Sometimes we mention some of the typical warnings, but we have never shared a full list of what the warning label should include.

5 Warnings for Free Strategic Planning Exercises

Warning-Sign

  • Prior to using free strategic thinking exercises, consider the participants, organizational culture, and layout of the room. All of these, and other factors, can impact your success.
  • Keep free strategic planning exercises out of the reach of untrained, unpracticed facilitators.
  • If you experience prolonged periods of silence after using a free strategic thinking question, stop immediately, and contact a trained facilitator.
  • Participants that have already been stymied by previous deadly strategic planning sessions will require a different approach than the recommended usage.
  • Common adverse reactions to the misuse of free strategic planning exercises include fidgeting, headache, yawning, slow burns, rolling eyes, doodling, head explosions, and shortened careers.

I’ve witnessed these a few times this year where someone used our questions, and nothing happened with a group. Sure the questions are important, but ultimately it’s how you ask them.

If you want help in using any of our questions and strategic thinking exercises, let us know. We’d be glad to help you!

Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 and let’s get started!  – Mike Brown

 

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

Looking for Ways to Develop a Successful
Innovation Strategy to Grow Your Business?
Brainzooming Has an Answer!

Brainzooming Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Tools eBookBusiness growth can depend on introducing new products and services that resonate more strongly with customers and deliver outstanding value.

Are you prepared to take better advantage of your brand’s customer and market insights to generate innovative product ideas? The right combination of outside perspectives and productive strategic thinking exercises enables your brand to ideate, prioritize, and propel innovative growth.

Download this free, concise eBook to:

  • Identify your organization’s innovation profile
  • Rapidly deploy effective strategic thinking exercises to spur innovation
  • Incorporate market-based perspectives into your innovation strategy in successful ways

Download this FREE eBook to turn ideas into actionable innovation strategies to drive your organization’s comeback!





Download Your Free  Outside-In Innovation Strategic Thinking Fake Book




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